T. Thorn Coyle’s latest book, Make Magic of Your Life, is everything I expected it would be. It’s easy to read, thought provoking, deceptively simple, conversational, and full of reminders to breathe. It’s also a great place to start for people who want to make changes to their lives, or who want to dip into concepts like magic without having to cast spells.
The book focuses on the powers of the Sphinx: to know, to will, to dare and to keep silent. Much of this book resonated for me from my perspective as a parent. I find it difficult to know with any clarity what my desires are when the needs of little creatures are immediately pressing. If I do know what I want, how do I ask for the space to pursue those desires without making more work for my partner? Some days the hierarchy of needs has my desires down at the bottom. I particularly found the section on resistance pertinent in light of the struggles I’ve been having with my four year old, as well as a few other areas in my life.
Linking this book to the theme of Place is challenging, because this book isn’t about Place at all. So I’m going to dispense with a standard review altogether here. The subtitle of Thorn’s book is Passion, Purpose and the Power of Desire. If these are topics that you need to explore, or enjoy exploring, you will likely grow from reading this book. I recommend not reading it one sitting, but taking time with each section to chew on the questions asked and to do the exercises.
What I do think is relevant to the idea of Place are the four powers of the Sphinx and how they can help us explore where we’re at geographically.
First, we need to know something about where we’re at or where we want to travel to. A great first step in any venture is to find out Stuff. I love exploring maps, census information, and reading up on the history and current situation of a place. With a good library and the Internet at one’s disposal, we can find out everything from where the best Indian restaurant is (if any) to who founded the town to what flowers bloom when in a particular place.
All of these facts can help us figure out how we want to interact with a place. Are we civic minded? Sociable? Interested in the outdoors? Are there areas of importance to us that are lacking in the region? How far will you need to travel for those things? If we’re choosing to move to a place sorting out what is a need (good schools? more than 300 days of sun? convenient public transportation?) vs. a want (good community opera? more than one vegan place? a house rather than an apartment?) vs a desire (a magical community within an hour’s drive? access to the forest?) is especially important.
Armed with our knowledge we shift into will. As Thorn says, ‘Will is a muscle.’ We need to exercise it like we do our brains and our bodies. For me, I am such a homebody that sometimes I have to will myself outside. Getting out some days is an act of will. I am always grateful I’ve done it, but sometimes it feels more like a task on a to-do list. Maybe getting out into the solitude of nature isn’t what challenges you, but rather getting socially involved in your community takes more work. If an aspect of community or Place is important to you, but does not come easy for you, developing will will take work. Thorn can help here.
Next we need to take some risks; we must dare. This might take the form of climbing Mount Rainier. Maybe it’s joining the city council. Perhaps learning to wild-harvest devil’s club feels bold. These acts take desire and will and daring! Climbing a mountain for some is far more risky than say, walking around the block, but for others perhaps a daily walk around the block is deeply daring. Developing one or two goals connected to our communities can help connect us more deeply to where we live.
Last of the four powers is keeping silent. This piece cannot be emphasized enough. The more we listen the more we connect, the more we learn, the more we grow. We can listen to the birds, to rivers flowing, to the rush of traffic at its peak. We can also listen to the voices of different people groups in our communities. What do they have to say about their experiences in that Place? And we can let that information sink in. We don’t have to do anything with what we learn in that moment. Finding a spot where we can just be quiet, whether that’s a certain park bench at lunch time, or a trail head on the weekend, a place where we listen not just to the space around us but to the space within us as well, is also important because we are part of our Place.
What manifests from the application of these four powers is a rich appreciation for and experiential connection with your Place. We can make magic with our Land and in our chosen Place.
Watch an author video with T. Thorn Coyle and read more responses to Make Magic of Your Life at the Patheos Book Club!